The importance of supported employment opportunities for all – National Grid

Atos recognises the importance  of its colleagues and acknowledges and supports what is important to them. Atos leads the way to support employees with disabilities and created the ‘Adapt network  to act as a support network. Atos has a team and process to support employees with adjustments that enable them to work effectively and meet their needs. “This network builds awareness, understanding and allyship for people with disabilities in Atos. It is run by employees, for employees and the co-chairs sit on our diversity steering committee to directly influence our diversity strategy”, says Rachel Edwards, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Atos UK&I. “It also encourages our partners and suppliers to build disability confidence in their workforce.”

National Grid, Atos’ electricity and gas utility customer, shares our objective to create equal opportunities for all, and implemented 'EmployAbility – Let’s Work Together'the supported internship for young students aged 16-24 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who have an Education and Health Care Plan.

“The purpose of the internship is to raise aspirations and significantly improve the likelihood of a young person with learning disabilities achieving paid employment by the provision of supported work placements”, says Louise Saunders, Group Safety, Health & Environment Project manager at National Grid.  “In England 15% of all pupils will be classed as having SEND, this is 1.3m young people in education. Currently only 6% of people with learning disabilities are in paid employment and when you compare this to the percentage of adults without disabilities in paid employment at around 80%, it shows how unacceptable this figure is.”

Supported internships are like extended work experiences over the course of an academic year, where interns get to work in a number of real job roles. A core element of the supported internship is the support they receive from their job coaches. Job coaches are specifically trained for their roles and ensure the interns are fully supported in learning the jobs before they are able to perform them un-aided.

For National Grid, this programme has been transformational. It started in 2013 and in 7 years it has welcomed over 100 interns.  “60% of our interns have secured paid employment upon completing their programmes, with some having now achieved promotions.  Interns who haven’t gone into employment have continued their education at college, with many joining courses at a higher level than originally expected”, says Louise Saunders.

How can other organisations get involved?

Currently there aren’t enough supported internship programmes across the UK and the positive feedback from parents of those who have experienced EmployAbility – Let’s Work together, demonstrates the importance and potential of these opportunities for children. Such programmes make a huge amount of difference to so many people and once you have experienced it, it’s hard not to get totally hooked in.

In fact, the programme model has inspired other companies to set-up their own supported internships, with Severn Trent, Amey and Yorkshire Water to name a few.

If you are interested to find out more about National Grid’s supported internship programme, please visit its webpage.